Federal Officials Say Starbucks Engaged in Unfair Labor Practices in Phoenix

Michelle Eisen, a barista at the Buffalo, NY, Elmwood Starbucks location, the first Starbuck location to unionize, helps out the local Starbucks Workers United, employees of a local Starbucks, as they gather at a local union hall to cast votes to unionize or not, Wednesday, Feb. 16, 2022, in Mesa, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

By Jessica Swarner

April 25, 2022

Federal labor officials have asked a judge to force Starbucks Corp. to reinstate three union activists at its Mayo Boulevard and Scottsdale Road location in Phoenix, alleging that the coffee giant engaged in unfair labor practices, documents show.

The National Labor Relations Board’s Phoenix regional director, in a filing Friday in US District Court in Arizona, sought an injunction that would make Starbucks hire back its three employees—Laila Dalton, Alyssa Sanchez, and Tyler Gillette—who were three of four members of the union organizing committee.

“We felt that it was amazing, that the NLRB is holding Starbucks accountable for what they’ve done to our three workers, and that this is well overdue,” Bill Whitmire, a supervisor and union leader at the Phoenix store, told The Copper Courier.

The NLRB’s petition is the latest blow to the coffee chain as locations nationwide seek to unionize. Workers at the flagship Seattle location voted Thursday to form a union, as did baristas in Colorado on Friday.

In Phoenix, federal labor officials allege that Starbucks retaliated after it learned of employees there seeking to unionize.

“Among other things, Starbucks disciplined, suspended, and discharged one employee, constructively discharged another, and placed a third on an unpaid leave of absence after revoking recently granted accommodations,” the filing states.

RELATED: A Phoenix Starbucks Worker Pushed for a Union. Then She Was Fired.

“Constructive discharge” is a legal term meaning an employee quits due to an employer creating a hostile work environment.

A Starbucks spokesperson said Saturday that the company disagreed with the labor board’s accusations and noted an investigation found the employees violated policies and, in some cases, state law.

After the Seattle location’s vote, Reggie Borges, a Starbucks spokesman, said “we will respect the process and will bargain in good faith. We hope that the union does the same.”

Whitmire said his store, as well as two other stores in the Valley, will have their union election ballot counts on May 5.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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  • Jessica Swarner

    Jessica Swarner is the community editor for The Copper Courier. She is an ASU alumna and previously worked at KTAR News 92.3 FM in Phoenix.

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